I.D.
Riverside Studios, London W6
Opened 30 October, 1997

"If a bi man and a bi woman live together it's called a straight relationship, even though there are no straight people in it." This interesting observation comes from Polar's devised show I.D., playing at the Riverside Studios. It is the only interesting moment in 85 minutes of self-regarding, "envelope-pushing" "performance". I have thus considerately saved you the effort and ordeal of actually going to see it.

A company of five conduct a mock-seminar on sexuality, sitting at a long table behind labels (oh, the significance!) proclaiming "Straight Woman," "Bi Man" (who, he makes clear, is really quite gay), "Bi Woman", "Gay Man" and "Lesbian". As the evening progresses to use the term loosely the participants occupy different places at the table, sitting behind various labels and thus highlighting their arbitrariness (ah, the profundity!). At one point they erupt into the audience, seeking opinions on whether straight men should be represented in the "seminar" (wow, the audacity!), but on the whole decide that they are redressing the imbalance of mainstream male-hetero-centred perceptions of sexuality (lawks a-mussy, the insight!). It's a "devised" show, of course.

Extracts are read out of texts ranging from Hélène Cixous to Nicholas de Jongh, and scenes re-enacted from The Boys In The Band and the recent movie Bound. An innuendo-laden recipe is given for "shortcrust Sapphic pie", and a jargon-peppered scientific paper on "the glamour gene". Beate Fritzsching (Straight Woman) arches her eyebrows at the audience in general, whereas Lisa Gornick (Lesbian) goes for the old chatting-up-specific-punters tactic as she delivers what I sincerely hope is a parodic beatnik "rap" over the rhythm from a tiny, tinny Casiotone beatbox.

On a couple of occasions all five break into inexplicable synchronised techno hand-jiving. At various points, players disappear beneath the table to change costumes. Slides are projected of allegedly relevant epigrams. The "intermission" consists of a would-be lecture on grammar, but since none of them actually seems to know what a subjunctive is, its potential as a metaphor for sexuality is rather dissipated. Things end with a polymorphous cluster-orgy, which more or less sums up what has preceded it: the cast, and director David Leddy, clearly knew precisely which orifices they wanted to dart up, so to speak, and darted up them. But is it art? No, actually, it isn't. Not at all.

Written for the Financial Times.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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